Monday, March 18, 2013

Endowment and #Wikimedia

Every so often, there is talk about an endowment fund for the Wikimedia Foundation. This means that a huge pile of money is kept is reserve for a rainy day.

There are a few problems as far as I am concerned. It makes sense when there is a reasonable fear that we will not be able to fund the projects of the WMF in the future. It assumes all the things the WMF could fund are being funded and are competently managed. The return on investment of putting money in an investment fund .. eh .. endowment fund are better than the return on investment of putting this money to work. People who administer investment funds are bankers.

Given the success of the fundraisers of the WMF, the question if the WMF cannot raise enough funds for its current activities is a joke.

What the WMF currently does and what it could do are two different things. Answering the second can only be answered by looking at what the WMF is there for. I refer to the mission statement on Meta.

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.
In collaboration with a network of chapters, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.

When I look at this text, the last two words can be seen a reason for an endowment.

However, I am certain that we can do more to "empower and engage people around the world". Just consider how much we do in the United States and compare it to Africa, Asia and South America combined. The WMF works in collaboration with a network of chapters.. Most countries do not have a chapter or another organisation .. yet.

Given that realistically the WMF is only investing in Wikipedia, it can not be said that we are doing everything possible to realise the mission statement. It can be argued that we do everything we can manage at this time.

There is enough room for growth and much of it does not need to cost us anything but time and effort. What is needed is the coordination, the planning and the will to go where Wikimedians have not gone before.

PS for an endowment to work well you have to trust and pay a banker. Personally I have more trust in us spending money wisely.
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